Estate administration is commonly known as “probate.” Losing a loved one is hard, regardless of the circumstances. Probate is the legal process of taking inventory of the person’s assets and liabilities, paying off debts, and distributing assets/property according to the person’s will. A good Denver probate lawyer can guide you through Colorado’s probate process and counsel you through this difficult time with sensitivity and understanding.
Colorado has adopted the Uniform Probate Code (“UPC”). The UPC was written many years ago to make the probate process less complicated. Estates under $70,000 with no real estate can be administered with a small estate affidavit. Uncomplicated estates can often be handled with minimal court involvement through a process we call “informal” probate. Estates with unique circumstances (e.g., holographic or handwritten wills, will contests) still require court supervision through a process we call “formal” probate.
Every probate is different. Handling an estate requires being organized and keeping good records, especially good bookkeeping records. Handling an estate often means rolling up your sleeves, cleaning out a family home and organizing an estate sale. Estate administration frequently involves hiring a real estate broker to list and sell a house. Handling an estate requires being diplomatic to well-meaning friends and family members. Handling an estate can unfortunately involve disputes with beneficiaries or creditors.
If you are appointed personal representative, you have a fiduciary duty ”to settle and distribute the estate. . . in accordance with the terms of any probated and effective will and this code, and as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.” C.R.S. § 15-12-703(1). You must also “observe the standards in dealing with the. . . assets that would be observed by a prudent man dealing with the property of another, and if [you have] special skills. . . [you are] under a duty to use those skills.”
You will have duties to many different persons interested in the estate, including creditors, family members, beneficiaries, and the surviving spouse. These competing interests can complicate what otherwise appears to be a seemingly straightforward job. By hiring a Denver probate attorney to guide you through this process, you can protect yourself against allegations of improper handling of assets.